Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hell in the Sky (part 1)


 Photos by MCSN Andy Jandik

Our group of seven hit the trail head at 7:40am with a cold, steady rain on our backs. We were five males and two females. It was a group made entirely of U.S. Navy journalists. The sister team from Oregon hadn't been able to make it, but the Sailors had to continue anyway.

We weren't exactly a volcano climbing all-star team. One guy was wearing jeans, one gal was sick with an almost constant cough, and only two of us had any experience attempting to summit Helens.  (We both fell short on the other attempt.)

We cleared the treeline at 4600' and immediately lost what little cover the trees had offered us. The slow dread of a cold drenching began to set in. Rising up to meet us was an old lava flow from the 1980 eruption. A steep, slippery slope of rocks rose into the clouds.

Two hours into the rock scramble, petty officer Amara Timberlake told us she was losing feeling in her hands.

The rain had stopped only to be replaced by a bitter wind.  Petty Officer Andy Jandik and I had her take her soaked gloves off, and put her hands inside our jackets. Our body temperatures dropped but she gained feeling and flexibility after about 15 minutes.

We continued on and cleared the lava flow, but the worst was yet to come.  Mount Saint Helens would push every one of us to our limits.

Attacking the lava flow. 

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